Off to Italy

Today we leave for Sicily and Italy. A fifty one day journey that will take us to the Madonie Natural Park, the shores of Lake Garda, and the center of Rome.

Planning has been extensive, but we always depend upon serendipity. Planning is great, but the unexpected is what keeps us going.

Follow along as we travel through the next two months.

 

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My idea of a shoppers heaven.DSCN8497.jpg

A view from north of Catania

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Sorrento

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A closed theater in Siracusa.DSCN8333.jpg

A calm stretch of road in Sicily.

 

 

 

Saving Money On Car Rentals

Car rental rates have soared in the last several years.  Even using  sites like Kayak and Priceline you tend to get some high rates.  Some time ago I saw a reference in the New York Times to a site called Autoslash.com.   I tried it earlier this summer and was able to get a very reasonable rate for the July 4th week in Hartford, Connecticut.   previously my best rate for the week was about $400. I ended up paying $241 and got the car from Hertz. That was a substantial savings thanks to AutoSlash.

I have booked a 21 day rental in Sicily and did quite a bit of shopping.  I searched Hertz, Auto Europe, and Avis.  Each gave me rates that were in the  $800 range. AUTOSLASH 2 2017-08-11 at 4.04.39 PM.jpgAUTO SLASH SAVINGS.jpg Hertz got down to about $760 and it was looking better. I got a quote from AutoSlash and found that they could get me a $747 rate for the same period and they would continue to search for updates to the rate. Hertz is the provider.

Now  for the really good news! We leave on Tuesday and today I got an email saying they checked rates and it went from $765.51 to $305.89.  This is a substantial savings.  Note the original quote I got was $747 but Hertz raised it. When I brought this to the attention of AutoSlash they contacted Hertz and got the rate reduced.

Give AutoSlash a try and compare with other search engines. Hotwire, Hotels.com, Kayak have been helpful to me in the past, but not have reduced the rates after booking.

You do not pay up front!  Also keep in mind many credit card companies will cover your CDW which can save you several hundred dollars on a rental.

I have no affiliation with any site mentioned above. P1010826.jpg

Always good to have some tape. In Palermo a driver strayed into my land and hit the mirror. He then continued as if nothing had happened.  Luckily I had some tape and we survived.  I rented with Europcar and got it through InItaly.com.  They covered the damage  but still charged me $100.   That is why credit card CDW is better. BUT read your credit card agreement throughly.

 

Gotcha

As I casualy drove from Borghese park where I dropped off my wife in Rome to return our rental car in Rome I was oblivious to what was happening around me. 

Seems that while I was enjoying the views, I was being watched. As the sights went by and my GPS took me  to the airport traffic cams were doing their job. Enforcing the zona limitato and preparing to send me a multa salata,   A slaty fine which I would have to pay on line.  That was the first and last time I would not be aware of the resident only driving areas in many cities in Italy
As we return to Rome this year, public transport will be our preferred method of getting around.  I must say it was fun driving by the colosseum with out a care in the world, but expensive. 

Papal Audience Tickets

After searching and searching  I found the following site which will allow you to get tickets to a Papal Audience. I hope you find this of use if you are going to be in Rome this year.

On most Wednesday you can attend the public audience in St Peters Square in front of St Peters Basilica.  You can request the tickets  by email and there is no charge. You will be directed to the web site to St Patrick’s American Community in Rome.  All the information you will need can be found on this page.

Saint Patrick’s American Community in Rome

Once you are on the page, the ticket link is on the right side  of the page. Allow two to three weeks for a response. You must pick up your tickets in Rome the day before the audience.

 

Here is a copy of the reply I received for my request:

The St. Patrick’s Catholic American Community of Rome is happy to assist you with 2 tickets for the Pope’s General Audience on Wednesday  September 13,  2017 at 10:00 AM in St. Peter’s Square – Vatican City. While the Pope begins his presentation at 10:00, the gates open at 8:00 and the seating fills up quickly.  We strongly recommend arriving early.  The audience usually lasts for one hour. Please check  www.vatican.va  under info/Prefecture for any change in the program.

 

Reserved Tickets can be picked up on Tuesday afternoon, September 12,  2017 between 4:30 and 6:30 PM ONLY in the Foyer/Sacristy of the Church of St. Patrick (San Patrizio a Villa Ludovisi), Via Boncompagni, N. 31 (near the corner of Via Boncompagni and Via Piemonte) near the US Embassy and the Via Veneto. The Church itself will open at 4:00 PM, and you are welcome to come inside.  However, we do not begin the distribution of tickets until 4:30 PM. And if you would like to stay and join us, our weekday Mass in English at St. Patrick’s is at 6:00 PM.

 

If you are unable to pick up your tickets on Tuesday afternoon, on Wednesday morning between 7:30 and 8:30 AM you can go to the Bronze Doors – St. Peter’s  Square – Vatican City –  and ask the Swiss Guards for tickets to attend the General Audience.  

 

Please Note:   The tickets are Free of Charge, but we ask you to consider making a free will offering of 5 Euros or 5 U.S. Dollars per ticket so that we can continue to offer this service.

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Saint Peters Basilica, Rome

Into the Heart of Sicily by Julien Zolli

Here is another video by Julien Zolli. He capture the sights, sounds and tastes of Sicily. From cities to tiny villages, Sicily never fails to charm a traveler. The beaches help one escape the heat that has plagued Europe this year.  If you visit, renting a car is the best way to get around. The roads are good and the views are amazing.

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The gentlemen of Ericie, Sicily.

 

Sicily Land of Myth from Julien Zolli

I found this wonderful video on Facebook and could not stop watching. it is short about five minutes but conveys the emotion my wife and I feel when we return to Sicily.

Julien Zolli is a French film maker who can be found on Vimeo and YouTube

Here is the link to this amazing video from a very talented individual. You can Google him to see more videos he has produced.

 

Oh crap, the canceled my FLIGHT!!!!

It is only a matter of time untill something like that happens. It happened to us twice. Once in Vienna, and the last time in Rome. We were on vacanza, so it was not the end of the world, but it involved extra costs.  In Rome we had to stay an extra three days  ( so hard to take).  The airline had a bogus reason but never went into details.

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As we were in the airport to leave my wife found a notice in the airport regarding the rights of passengers in the EU. Click the link below to bring you to this page.

EU Passenger Rights

Much has been written on this subject, but if your are delayed or have your flight canceled check this site. Also check it if your baggage is lost or delayed. Last year Air Berlin would not let us bring our suitcase as carry on even though our connection was only an hour. Our baggage did not make it.

We went back to the airline (Eurofly USA div of Meridiana) through our credit card company and saved almost $1000. They did not contest our chargeback through the credit card company.

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With all our trips to Italy, still like Alitalia the best.

 

The site below may be of help also:

Air Help

May the help be with you!

 

 

 

A moment on Lake Como

What better memory than sitting down to breakfast and  dinner while looking out over the lake.   We had a wonderful apartment at Wright Art BnB on the  lake.   We enjoyed breakfast and dinner with the most amazing views.  La vita è bella. 

TODAY IN THE WASHINTON POST: The Ape celebrates 70 years.

What you say is an APE, not an ape, but the ubiquitous little combination of a motorcycle and pickup truck that plugs along all of Italy’s roadways.

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Credit photo and text above from the Washington Post.

The Ape hauls almost anything, from buildng materials to fruit and fiish. fullsizeoutput_d66d.jpegA clasic Ape in Toscanafullsizeoutput_d66f.jpegNothing elegant about this baby, plain  and simple, it does the job.fullsizeoutput_d66a.jpegThis one was at an Airbnb in Montepulciano.

fullsizeoutput_d664.jpegfullsizeoutput_d665.jpegfullsizeoutput_d666.jpegNot only did he sell fruit and vegetable, he serenaded the streets with his words on the health of his produce.

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This fruit vendor was in Cefalù, Sicily.   (fruttivendolo)

Some info from  Wikipedia:

At the end of World War II, most Italians, badly affected by the war, lacked means of transport and, more importantly, the financial means to acquire and maintain full-sized four-wheeled vehicles. In 1947, the inventor of the Vespa, aircraft designer Corradino D’Ascanio, came up with the idea of building a light three-wheeled commercial vehicle to power Italy’s economical reconstruction, an idea which found favour with Enrico Piaggio, the son of the firm’s founder, Rinaldo. The very first Ape model and the mark immediately following it were mechanically a Vespa with two wheels added to the rear, with a flat-bed structure on top of the rear axle. The early sales brochures and adverts referred to the vehicle as the VespaCar or TriVespa. The first Apes featured 50 cc,[3]125 cc or 150 cc and more recently 175 cc engines.

It is hard to imagine a 125 CC engine pulling a big load.

Capo di Milazzo Hidden Treasure In Sicily

We first discovered Milazzo and Capo Milazzo in 2011. We arrived hoping to take the  ferry to the Aeolian Islands the next day.  Since our trip is spontaneous we were finding our lodging on a daily basis. This evening all hotels were booked. I continued to drive from Milazzo to  the the point which looked promising but we did not find anything. Like any good tourist does, I said lets stop and have dinner.  Now or luck turned. A couple sitting next to us heard our conversation and said they were staying close by and had rented an apartment. We could follow then and they would introduce us to the owner. How kind they were.

Long story short: The owner said we would be able to have an apartment tomorrow, as it was vacant but not cleaned. I said give me a broom, clean sheets and we will make it work.  It was a bargain, 50 euros a night and we had a place. See the photos and you know why we  extended  our stay to four nights.DSC_3560.JPGOur apartment with a pool. Even had a washing machine! DSC_3590.JPG Down town Milazzo is inviting in the evening, but not crowded.

DSC_3597.JPGThis is where it starts to become such a thrilling place to visit. I followed the signs.DSC_3598.JPGMare, the sea awaits with a natural piscina, or swimming pool. DSC_3615.JPGThe walk started high up above the rocky shores below.

DSC_3622.JPGI think there was over 160 steps to get down.fullsizeoutput_d63d.jpegA slow descent.DSC_3632.JPGThe piscina awaits.DSC_3633.JPGDSC_3637.JPGCrystal clear water protected from the sea. P1010496.JPGFamilies  came to visit. fullsizeoutput_d65d.jpegThe lighthouse or faro. Below are some of the flowers and sights. P1030438.JPGDSC_3539.JPGfullsizeoutput_d656.jpegP1010480.JPG

I think if you visit Sicily, this make a great place to stop. Visit the Capo, cape, and visit the islands by boat. The city is not too big, but has enough to keep a shopper happy and a food lover content.

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